Malcolm Gladwell & His Thoughts on American Football

Last Tuesday I went to a taping of The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore! I got VIP tickets through CUNY J-School so that made me feel special. Before the show, Larry Wilmore held a Q&A with the audience. I asked him what his “ultimate birthday gift is” and he replied with “anything Beatles or Marxist”… Haha. Other people asked questions about Donald Trump and Super Tuesday. Larry joked with us about how terrified he is of the thought of Donald Trump as president and that “shit might go down on Super Tuesday”. It turns out he was right.

For those of you who don’t know, The Nightly Show is a spin-off of The Daily Show (Jon Stewart pitched the idea to Comedy Central). I am a big fan of The Daily Show; both pre and post Jon Stewart. I love the show’s political commentary and how it spins current events into comedic dialogue. The Nightly Show is similar because they too turn current events into punchlines. At the end of the show they hold a round-table discussion with various guests. This show’s guest was Malcolm Gladwell, a journalist and best-selling author.

Malcolm Gladwell talked about football and the dangers of the sport. Gladwell said that he is a hypocrite because although he loves watching football, he believes that it is extremely dangerous for the players. The movie Concussion has raised many questions about football and how chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a relatively unknown condition that many football players are suffering from.

Gladwell mentioned that football is “morally problematic in many ways”. He has more of a problem with high school and college football than with professional football:

“It’s one thing to have someone play a game that runs the risk of bringing them permanent damage while they are making a couple million dollars a year. It’s another thing to do that on the college level where they are not making anything. They are essentially endangering their own health to entertain alumni and drunken college students.”

Would I ever let my kids play football? Probably… but only if they were really adamant about it. I would encourage them to pursue other sports or activities first. After watching Concussion and looking at the statistics of CTE, I would prefer to see my child dancing on stage or playing basketball.

This got me thinking about the culture of football. Why do Americans love football so much? Clearly there is a “macho” culture behind the love for it. I picture my uncles “oooing” and “ahhing” at the slow-motion replays of the tackles. I was never a big fan of watching football but I did enjoy playing it with friends. It’s an exciting sport that can be fun! I won’t deny that. However we really need to be honest with ourselves about the dangers of this sport. Facing that reality is the first step to solving this issue.

Larry Wilmore put on a great show. The Nightly Show sheds light on issues that need to be thoroughly thought out and discussed. It also puts things in perspective. That’s the kind of show people need more of.